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The World This Week
EU’s Versailles Declaration on Ukraine, China’s National Peoples Congress meeting, and South Korea’s Presidential elections
The World This Week #161, Vol. 4, No. 10
The World This Week #161, Vol. 4, No. 10
Joeana Cera Matthews, Keerthana Nambiar, Avishka Ashok
Ukraine: The Versailles declaration of the EU leaders
On 10 March, the EU leaders gathered for an emergency meeting at the Palace of Versailles in France. The two-day summit, hosted by France, concluded with the EU leaders adopting a declaration on the Russian aggression against Ukraine and measures to be more self-reliant.
Addressing the summit, France’s President Emmanuel Macron said: “Europe has changed in the face of the pandemic. It is going to change even more and faster in the face of war.” Macron also commented on Ukraine’s appeal for an accelerated EU accession: “Can we open a membership procedure with a country at war? I don't think so. Can we shut the door and say: 'never'? It would be unfair. Can we forget about the balance points in that region? Let's be cautious.”
On 11 March, the Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte commented on Ukraine’s request for an accession: “There is no such thing as a fast-tracking of accession. It doesn’t exist.” Backing Rutte, Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said: “Nobody entered the European Union overnight.”
Meanwhile, Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda addressed journalists: “I wish Ukraine gets the candidate status now... but it was not possible today, but we will come back to this issue.” The Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins added: “It is important to show a clear, open door for EU membership for Ukraine, that the path is open for them to take.”
What is the background?
First Ukraine’s candidature. Although the bloc sympathized with Ukraine, it denied Ukraine’s request for a quick accession. The debate about Ukraine’s accession into the bloc has been a long-drawn one. The EU requires specific terms and conditions to be met before countries are accepted into the bloc; Ukraine still has a long way to go. The bloc is unable to fasten the accession process, even with Ukraine under attack.
Second, Russia and Europe’s energy dependence. Europe depends on Russia for 40 per cent of its natural gas, 27 per cent of oil imports and 46 per cent of coal. Calls by members such as Latvia and Poland to cut off Russian fossil fuels implies a direct hit to the already declining economy. The impact of such a move will be primarily suffered by Germany, Austria and Hungary, whose economies will dwindle given their heavy dependence on Russian energy. Nonetheless, the lack of unity regarding an embargo did not hinder a unanimous approval to reduce dependency on Russian energy.
Third, the refugee crisis. The UN refugee agency - the UNHCR claims 2.2 million Ukrainians to have fled the country with more than half of this number being children. The large-scale displacement has increased vulnerability for Ukraine’s neighbouring countries - Poland, Moldova, Lithuania and Romania. Before the Russian invasion, the EU was already facing a refugee crisis due to the migrant inflow from Belarus and the English Channel; this only adds to their woes.
Fourth, efforts at strengthening the economy. Contributing to the wavering Euro, the EU leaders decided to increase their spending on Ukraine. Italy and France called for the issuance of a fresh joint debt which was firmly opposed by Germany and the Netherlands, citing unused funds from the EUR 800 billion pandemic recovery fund. Nonetheless, the declaration suggests a European investment plan along with a phased bond-purchasing program by the European Central Bank (ECB). Several other measures were also suggested to rebuild the economy despite the crisis.
Fifth, towards armaments. The summit was a watershed moment in the bloc’s history, given its decision to arm an ongoing conflict. Since the Russian invasion, the bloc has approved EUR 1.5 billion in defence aid to Ukraine. Although collective security has always been NATO’s forte, the bloc realized the need to be self-reliant. Macron, championing the European Defense Union, stated that it was time for the EU to be serious about its defence spending. Even the historically neutral Sweden, via its Prime Minister, backed this along with a hesitant Germany.
What does it mean?
First, the consensus and divide. The war in Ukraine has raised what the EU stands for while it reconsiders its economic, defence and energy policies. Although the leaders bickered over a few issues, a larger consensus remained regarding fundamentals such as strategic autonomy, economy-building and condemnation of Russian aggression. Simultaneously, there was also a divide in individual policies regarding energy and joint debt issuances. The bloc will need to get its act together and showcase a united front in its response to Russia.
Second, the lack of response from Ukraine. Ukraine is yet to respond to the declaration and the comments made by leaders at the summit. Given that the country hoped to receive a positive reply regarding their accession appeal, their response will be noteworthy. The brunt of the Russian aggression is borne by Ukraine alone, the lack of a guaranteed membership will only make the path forward tough.
China: Fifth Session of the 13th NPC
On 10 March, the fifth session of the 13th National People’s Congress came to an end. The six-day political congregation also witnessed the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
During the meeting, lawmakers and political advisors gathered and discussed issues such as the economy, ethnic unity, rural revitalisation, national defence and enhancing the military. President Xi Jinping attended the congregation; he delivered a speech highlighting women’s security and calling ethnic unity as the country’s lifeline. Other top officials such as Premier Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji, Han Zheng and Wang Qishan also attended the conference. The conference repeatedly emphasized on China’s whole process democracy and condemned the West and its “Summit for Democracy”. The lawmakers also discussed several bills, such as the draft decision on the number of deputies to be elected in the next NPC and the method for electing deputies in HKSAR and Macao SAR.
On 8 March, a total of 487 proposals were submitted by the 3000 NPC deputies, along with 8,000 suggestions, criticisms and comments. The proposals stressed energy, digital economy, pre-school education, elderly care and women’s rights. The proposals were then reviewed by the special committees of the NPC, elected by the deputies, and the suggestions were forwarded to 194 organizations for further inspection. The meeting also passed the work report of the Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, NPC Standing Committee, electoral rules for the 14th NPC, resolution on the government work report and the sixth amendment to the Organic Law of the Local People’s Congresses and Local People’s Governments, which was adopted in 1979.
The conference also reviewed the work report of the government, which stressed economic stability as the top priority in 2022. It set the economic growth target at 5.5 per cent. In 2022, the country will aim to create 11 million new urban jobs, restrict the unemployment rate to 5.5 per cent or lower and maintain its grains production at 650 million tonnes. Furthermore, the Ministry of Defence also announced its intolerance against the secessionist movements in Taiwan. It clarified that the actions of the People’s Liberation Army were not aimed at the compatriots, but at the Taiwanese Independence activists.
What is the background?
First, the significance of the two sessions. The ‘two sessions’ refers to the top two political meetings in China: the NPC and the CPPCC. The NPC is the largest legislative body in the world and comprises over 3000 deputies who have direct connections with the Chinese citizens. Being a country with a vast population and a massive territory, the 3000 deputies provide a platform for the people to express their discomfit and complaints with the political system, which are later discussed during the two sessions. The CPPCC comprises representatives of the Communist Party of China, people’s organizations, ethnic groups, independent democratic groups, and compatriots from HKSAR, Macao SAR, and Taiwan. The political event is crucial to China’s democratic system and plays an essential role in continuing the “whole-process democracy”. The meeting is also a forerunner to the election of the next NPC as it decides the number of deputies to be elected and the method for their election.
Second, China’s economic growth. In March 2021, the NPC set the country’s economic growth at 6.1 per cent, but the country managed to achieve a GDP growth of 8.1 per cent, which amounted to USD 18 trillion. Despite the increase, Premier Li Keqiang announced that the set target for 2022 would be brought down to 5.5 per cent, the lowest in decades. The country foresees major economic challenges and concerns in 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the global economic conditions, political hostility towards China and the crisis in Eastern Europe. The economic experts predict that these external factors may impact the country and cause internal problems such as increased social instability, leading to economic volatility.
Compared to China’s economic boom when the rates exceeded 10 per cent, the country has been experiencing an economic slowdown in the past few years. In December 2020, the World Bank published a report titled “From Recovery to Rebalancing: China’s Economy in 2021,” which predicted a two per cent decrease in the country’s economic growth. An economic update by the bank in December 2021 forecasted yet another slowdown in 2022. Another report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers China, titled “Global Economy and China’s Economy in 2021,” also stressed on global uncertainties and an unbalanced economy that threatened to harm the Chinese economy. The report claimed that the economy was bound to achieve an eight per cent growth in 2021 but dip to 5.5 per cent in 2022.
Apart from the economy, the government plans to enhance the birth rate by providing numerous attractive provisions and subsidies to young couples. China is, therefore, looking to secure its domestic markets and aims to push more capital into the national economy and the Chinese society.
Third, defence stability. The NPC announced a 7.1 per cent increase in its defence spending. The Global Times validated the defence spending and referred to the growing external threats and security challenges facing the country in recent years. China is also tightening its grip on the Taiwan issue by taking a harsh stand against countries that fail to adhere to the ‘One-China’ principle. Even though the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan cannot be ascertained, China is enhancing its military capacity to overcome possible challenges.
Fourth energy security. The CPC is placing great importance on the green-transition of the Chinese economy, which is currently dependent on traditional sources of energy. China set extremely high goals at the COP26 and promised to transition to a carbon-neutral economy by 2060. In September 2021, President Xi Jinping announced China’s decision to stop funding overseas coal-powered plants. The country has also placed renewable energy as its priority. In 2016, four of the five biggest renewable energy deals were made by China. The government also recognizes the domestic urgency to transition to a cleaner energy source after a report by Tsinghua University showcased seven cities in China to be in the top 10 most polluted in the world. The coal dependency also caused an economic slowdown in the fourth quarter of 2021, urging the government to shift out of its reliance on coal.
Fifth ethnic unity. President Xi’s recent call for ethnic unity and close community ties are not the first in the past few months. China has strongly resisted external interferences in its internal ethnic issues, such as the accusations of human rights violation in Xinjiang and Tibet. In March 2021, China imposed sanctions on nine lawmakers from the UK for spreading lies about Xinjiang. It also sanctioned the US and Canadian officials for their interference in Xinjiang. The Chinese government has strived to show Xinjiang in a positive light by highlighting reports by the regional government on improving the people’s living conditions and a surge in economic opportunities created by the government. In September 2021, the State Council Information Office released a White Paper showcasing substantial improvement in the region’s demography. In its most recent efforts, the Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations extended an invitation to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prove China’s narrative on ethnic inclusion and common prosperity for all within the country.
What does it mean?
As the NPC ended, the country has highlighted its major priorities for 2022. The country seems to be focusing on its domestic economy and enhancing local supply chains to ensure stable economic development. The government has foreseen challenges in ensuring social stability and ethnic unity and thus, wishes to strengthen these factors before they harm the country’s growth. The NPC also believes that 2022 is the year for China to take major steps toward its climate goals. Therefore, green energy is expected to receive major impetus in the coming year.
South Korea Elections: Yoon Suk-yeol becomes the new President
On 10 March, Yoon Suk-yeol of the People Power Party was elected as the new President of the Republic of Korea. Yoon secured 48.5 per cent of the vote, just 0.7 per cent ahead of his main rival of the ruling Democratic Party, Lee Jae-myung.
Yoon pledged to honor the spirit of the Constitution and the National Assembly and promised to cooperate with the ruling party to “better serve the people”. He said:It was a heated race, and I learned many things while campaigning. I believe the election result is a great victory of the people, rather than a victory of myself, the PPP, Ahn Cheol-soo and the People's Party.”
What is the background?
First, the brief history of electoral politics in South Korea. Even though South Korea is considered one of the most successful new democracies, the party system has developed differently. A competitive party system has not emerged in South Korea. In 1987, South Korea conducted its first free and fair presidential election featuring a female candidate. Electoral politics was ruled mainly by pointing out shortcomings of the ruling government and offering better alternatives for the issues faced by the people. Since 2002, the electoral campaigns have always focused on a few primary objectives such as economic and social progress, youth unemployment, gender equality, etc. On the foreign policy front, the issues discussed are North Korea, China, and the US.
Second, major issues of election 2022. Real estate and housing prices dominated the elections. Since Moon Jae-in took over the office, one of his top priorities was to stabilize the housing market, which largely failed, leaving the public hoping for a better administration. The presidential candidates focused on campaigning about policy reforms in the real estate sector. Gender equality was also the highlight of the elections. About foreign policy, the leaders were vocal regarding the push for diplomacy with Pyongyang, repairing ties with Japan and scepticism regarding the intensifying US-China rivalry.
Third, the offensive election campaign. The campaigning period of the 20th presidential election in South Korea is described as “the ugliest presidential election ever.” The two leading candidates focused on slamming, demonizing and mocking each other. Yoon accused Lee of being involved in a land development scandal and Lee countered with allegations connecting PPP and Yoon with shamanism. The offences were further mounted by raising scandals targeting the candidates’ families. The campaigns revealed the greater differences in the public sentiment and the increasing polarization among the voters. This also showed that neither of the leaders focused on addressing the social, economic and diplomatic issues other than engaging in political revenge.
What does this mean?
First, the decline in satisfaction with the power distribution system. The electoral results show that the public support for the presidential candidates is right or left based on the ideological spectrum. It displays the political compromise made by the people. Due to the lack of experience of the presidential candidates, the voters seem to have chosen the lesser of two evils.
Second, the myriad of challenges for Yoon. As the new President Yoon takes power in May he will be put into a new set of challenges. Without a clear majority, he has the responsibility of bringing in the liberals and the ideological neutral sector of the society for a stable presidency. The dynamic political landscape of South Korean politics does not overhaul the progressiveness of the country. It has made major strides in growing its brand power and is the tenth-largest economy globally.
Also in the news...
By Ashwin Dhanabalan, Angkuran Dey and Meghna Manoj
East and Southeast Asia This Week
China: Beijing extends an invitation to the UNHRC
On 9 March, China’s permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva Chen Xu said the country would welcome the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to China and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Chen said: “We will work with the High Commissioner’s Office to make preparations for the visit.” The statements were made at the 49th session of the Human Rights Council, and the invitation to visit was extended for May.
China: President Xi held virtual summits with French and German leaders
On 9 March, China’s President Xi Jinping held a virtual summit with France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Xinhua reported : “Xi said it is important for the two sides to enhance dialogue, stay committed to cooperation, and promote steady and sustained progress of China-EU relations.” Xi further talked about the common understanding on promoting peace, seeking development, and advancing cooperation between the EU and China.
Japan: New diesel-electric submarine commissioned
On 10 March, Japan commissioned a new class of diesel-electric submarines. The submarine was named the Taigei, which meant Big Whale, was commissioned by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries shipyard in the city of Kobe. Stationed at the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s base, it is the successor to Japan’s current Soryu-class boats. The submarine would be powered by lithium-ion batteries and is a 3,000-ton diesel-electric attack submarine measuring 84 meters.
Japan and South Korea: Boosting ties with the US to counter North Korea
On 11 March, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol discussed the revival of three-way ties with the US. The two leaders also agreed to stay in close contact with North Korea. The discussion was in response to North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Kishida said they were looking at all options to deal with North Korea, such as diplomatic options and even possible sanctions.
North Korea: A possible return of ICBM’s and nuclear tests
On 7 March, a US report mentioned how North Korea’s missile launches indicated a return to intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear bomb tests. Commercial satellite imagery showed construction at North Korea’s nuclear testing facility; it was last closed in 2018. The report stated: “In January, North Korea began laying the groundwork for an increase in tensions that could include ICBM or possibly a nuclear test this year - actions that Pyongyang has not taken since 2017.” The country’s other nuclear facility Yongbyon too, appeared to be up and running, which added to the speculation that it was being used to create additional fuel for nuclear weapons.
Australia: Plans of a new nuclear submarine base
On 6 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned about a “new arc of autocracy” and pledged to build a new base for nuclear-powered submarines. Concerning the crisis in Eastern Europe, Morrison said it was a “major wake-up call” to the West as autocrats would try to impose their will on democracies. He further said the government had “provisioned more than $10bn to meet the facilities and infrastructure requirements.” His statements come as Australia is set to receive nuclear-powered submarines delivered under the AUKUS pact with the UK and the US.
Cambodia: ASEAN-US summit postponed
On 10 March, the summit between US President Joe Biden and leaders of the ASEAN was postponed. Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn said: “It has been postponed to a later date because some ASEAN leaders cannot attend the meeting on the proposed dates.” The summit was to be held during 28-29 March. In response to the announcement, the US State Department Spokesperson said they were “working closely with ASEAN to plan a successful event.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the summit was top priority as it would commemorate 45 years of US-ASEAN relations.
Thailand: Bangkok to purchase more electricity from Vientiane
On 11 March, Thailand announced to increase its electricity imports of 9,000 to 10,500 megawatts from Laos. In addition, an MoU on Expanding Electricity Trade Cooperation between Laos and Thailand was signed at a virtual ceremony by the Energy Ministries of both countries. Thailand has been buying electricity from Laos since 1993, and the six hydropower plants generate the energy.
Laos: China strengthens energy cooperation with Vientiane
On 10 March, China signed an electricity agreement with Laos and promoted green development. China’s National Energy Administration and the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Laos signed the electricity agreement with Electricite du Laos. The agreement highlights the establishment of electricity grid interconnections in the Lancang-Mekong Region. Chinese Ambassador to Laos Jiang Zaidong said: “Laos is rich in electricity resources…but its deployment capacity is seriously insufficient, thus leading to huge abandoned water and electricity facilities.”
Myanmar: Illegal rare-earth mining in Kachin state
On 10 March, a report by Radio Free Asia stated that unregulated mining of rare earth minerals increased under the military regime. The illegal mining has accelerated the damage to the environment. A resident near the mines mentioned: “Under junta rule, and the minister of natural resources being in the junta, there are a lot of opportunities for these illegal miners.” China imports rare earth materials from Myanmar as the labor is cheap, but the illegal mining has been adversely affecting the ecosystem
South Asia This Week
India: 15th round of LAC talks with China
On 12 March, India’s Lt Gen Anindya Sengupta and China’s Major Gen Yang Lin met at the Indian side of Chushul Moldo Meeting Point. The two military leaders discussed the disengagement at standoffs in hot springs, Depsand and Demchok. Not much had changed since the 13th round of talks that were held in October 2021 and the 14th round held in January 2022.
India: Operation Ganga evacuates students from Ukraine
On 11 March, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar hailed Operation Ganga. The operation was a Government of India’s initiative to evacuate the Indian students studying in Ukraine. Jaishankar also said: “Students from Sumy are returning today to India. Their evacuation was particularly challenging. Operation Ganga, undertaken at the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has delivered due to both leadership and commitment.” He further thanked the authorities in Ukraine and Russia, and the Red Cross for their efforts in the evacuation.
Pakistan: Questions over India’s missile misfire
On 11 March, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf questioned India’s handling of sensitive missile technology. His statements came after India accepted accidentally firing a missile into Pakistan. The Indian Defense Ministry confirmed in a statement that it was a technical malfunction and an inquiry had been ordered. Yusuf said: “This raises serious questions about India’s ability to handle such sensitive technology…In a nuclear environment, such callousness and ineptitude raises questions about the safety and security of Indian weapon systems.”
Pakistan: US bill tabled to declare Islamabad as a state sponsor of terrorism
On 8 March, US Congressman Scott Perry tabled a bill to designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism. The bill stated: “To provide for the designation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, and for other purposes.” If implemented, the bill would bring restrictions on US foreign assistance, sanctions, a ban of defence exports and sales, and a setback to financial transactions.
Afghanistan: Third regional meeting to be held in China
On 9 March, Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Hafiz Zia Ahmad stated the third meeting involving Foreign Ministers of regional countries on Afghanistan would be held in China by the end of March. Ahmad said: “The meeting focused on enhanced relations between both countries, political and economic issues as well as the convening and participation in the regional foreign ministers’ meeting to be held in China at the end of this month.” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China was willing to contribute to Afghanistan’s stability and security.
Sri Lanka: Colombo Security Conclave
On 11 March, the Colombo Security Conclave, a grouping of four countries, India, Maldives, Mauritius, and Sri Lanka, adopted a plan for cooperation and collaboration. The plan adopted was in maritime security, counterterrorism, and drug trafficking. A joint statement from the conclave stated: “As maritime neighbours facing similar threats, the conclave reaffirmed their commitment to engage in consistent joint efforts to achieving regional peace and security.” Bangladesh and Seychelles also attended the conclave as observers.
Sri Lanka: India’s Line of credit
On 10 March, the Reserve Bank of India issued a notification to initiate the line of credit provided by India to Sri Lanka to buy petroleum products. The RBI said: “out of the total credit by Exim Bank, goods, works and services of value of at least 75 per cent should be supplied by the seller from India.” Also, on 8 March, Sri Lanka said it would be effectively devaluing its currency amid an economic crisis and an accelerating inflation rate. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka said: “greater flexibility in the exchange rate will be allowed to the markets with immediate effect.” The International Monetary Fund mentioned how the situation was getting worse for the island nation as they even struggled to pay for fuel imports and other necessities.
Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa This Week
Kyrgyzstan: Shooting at the border and new talks with Tajikistan
On 10 March, authorities in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan held talks after gunfire broke out near a disputed border segment. The gunfire exchange by the border guards resulted in the death of one person and wounded another. Officials from Kyrgyzstan’s Batken district and Tajikistan’s Sughd region met to de-escalate the situation as the border areas of Central Asia have been disputed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Iran: EU to pause the nuclear deal due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
On 11 March, EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, said the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was put on hold due to “external factors.” Since Borrell had coordinated the JCPOA agreement, he said: “A final text is essentially ready and on the table. As coordinator, I will, with my team, continue to be in touch with all participants and the US to overcome the current situation and to close the agreement.” The talks of reviving the agreement were earlier held in Vienna. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh responded by assuring “No external factor will affect our joint will to go forward for a collective agreement.”
Saudi Arabia: Riyadh to lift travel bans to Thailand
On 10 March, Saudi Arabia decided to lift the 30-year travel ban to Thailand. The Saudi General Directorate of Passports said now that the nationals could enter both countries.
Africa: Aid drains as funds move to Ukraine
On 10 March, aid agencies expressed concerns as the crisis in Ukraine was diverting the funds that were kept aside for the conflicts in West Africa and droughts in the east. Donors have cut funding for emergencies on the continent. Norwegian Refugee Council and Oxfam said, in Burkina Faso, donors were cutting their funding by 70 per cent to support their operations in Ukraine. While in Somalia, the country is undergoing a drought which is affecting a third of the population.
South Africa: World Bank report emphasis on inequality
On 10 March, the Inequality report by the World Bank cited South Africa as the most unequal country in the world. The report stated: “race remains a key driver of high inequality in South Africa, due to its impact on education and the labor market…The legacy of colonialism and apartheid, rooted in racial and spatial segregation, continues to reinforce inequality.”
Europe and the Americas This Week
Russia: Responding to Western sanctions
On 11 March, Russia imposed an export ban on products due to the sanctions imposed by the West. As reported by BBC: "The ban covers exports of telecoms, medical, vehicle, agricultural, and electrical equipment, as well as some forestry products such as timber." The Economic ministry said the ban was on more than 200 products and was in response to the West as they were "aimed at ensuring uninterrupted functioning of key sectors of the economy."
Turkey: Biden holds phone conversation with Erdogan
On 10 March, US President Joe Biden held a phone call with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to a statement released by Erdogan's office, the President called on Biden to remove the "unjust" sanctions imposed on the country's defense industry. The US had imposed sanctions on five of Turkey's officials after Turkey bought Russian missile defense systems. Meanwhile, a White House statement failed to address any specifics regarding the talk on sanctions while it stated that the two leaders "discussed opportunities to strengthen bilateral ties".
Bosnia-Herzegovina: Germany's Baerbock meets with Foreign Minister Turkovic
On 10 March, Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock addressed a news conference with her Bosnian counterpart Bisera Turkovic in Sarajevo. Her visit marks efforts to bring the country into the EU's purview following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Baerbock said: "We want to live together in the European house." Baerbock, who is on a three–day trip to the region, will also visit Kosovo, Serbia, and Moldova. Top diplomat says the Ukraine conflict shows the importance of ties between the EU and the Western Balkans. Bosnia is seeking to join the EU, but accession negotiations have not begun. Meanwhile, Bosnia has sought membership in the bloc.
Denmark: Prime Minister Frederiksen apologizes to Greenlandic Inuits
On 10 March, Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen directly apologized to Greenlandic Inuits' group. 22 Inuit children, ranging from five to eight years, were separated from their families and shipped to Copenhagen in 1950 as a part of an experiment to create a Danish-speaking elite. Although the parents were promised their return, they were never brought back to their original families. An inquiry into the experiment's impact on the childrens' lives concluded that most of them were negatively affected by the same. According to the Inuits' lawyer Mads Pramming, the written apology followed by the financial compensation of NOK 250,000 was in itself "a big success." Prammings added: "... and now they will have a face-to-face."
Denmark: Prime Minister Frederiksen announces referendum on 1 June 2022
On 6 March, Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced a referendum on 1 June. The referendum would decide whether or not the country should continue with its "opt-out from EU defence policy". The move follows the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During a news conference, Frederiksen said: "Historic times call for historic decisions… (the government) very clearly calls on Danes to lift the opt-out on defence." Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has also promised to expand defense spending by NOK 7 billion over two years. The referendum is expected to be a part of a newly-approved parliamentary agreement called the Folketing.
Austria: Vaccine mandate to be suspended until further notice
On 9 March, Austria's government announced that it would be suspending its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Seeking an expert commission's advice, the mandate will be suspended, and the situation will be reviewed after three months. Previously, the government required all adults to be inoculated against the virus; the lack of inoculation was to be penalized with EUR 3,600 from mid-March. Austria had become the country to declare a vaccine mandate amidst a devastating pandemic outbreak in November 2021.
Germany: Court ruling on far-right AfD party
On 8 March, a German court declared the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) to be a suspected threat to democracy. This allows for the domestic intelligence agency to monitor the activities of the opposition party. In March 2021, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) had legally challenged the AfD calling on the court to put the party under observation; however, the challenge was dismissed. Meanwhile, the court in Cologne found "sufficient indications of anti-constitutional goals within the AfD".
Sweden: Prime Minister Andersson denies calls by the opposition to join alliance
On 8 March, Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson turned down calls by the opposition to consider acceding into NATO. Andersson stated that applying for accession now would further jeopardize European security. The Prime Minister added: "I have been clear during this whole time in saying that what is best for Sweden's security and for the security of this region of Europe is that the government has a long-term, consistent and predictable policy and that is my continued belief." Sweden's foreign policy is founded on non-participation in military alliances; however, it has created close ties with NATO following growing Russian aggression in the Baltic region.
Europe: Votes in favour of banning 'golden passports' to Russians
On 9 March, the European Parliament members voted in favor of banning the 'golden passport' schemes to Russians. The non-binding vote intends to end the purchase of citizenship that allowed for "oligarchs and corrupt politicians to buy their way into Europe" by 2025. The Parliament saw 595 members voting in favor of the ban, 12 voting against it, while 74 members abstained from voting altogether. The European Parliament hopes to increase the background checks for the procedure as well.
The US: Senate passed a bill to fund USD 13.6 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine
The US also condemned reports of Moscow's plan to seize and nationalize the assets and businesses that have stopped operating. White House Press secretary Jen Psaki said: "It will compound the clear message to the global business community that Russia is not a safe place to invest and do business." However, a spokesperson for Coca-Cola said: "We have had no indications from Russian authorities that they intend to nationalise our assets."
Venezuela: Caracas frees two jailed US citizens
On 09 March, Venezuela freed two jailed US citizens as a goodwill gesture. The release of prisoners came as Venezuela had a visit by a high-level delegation from Washington. US President Joe Biden said: "Tonight, two Americans who were wrongfully detained in Venezuela will be able to hug their families once more." The move signals Venezuela's interest in improving relations with the US amid the war in Eastern Europe.
Brazil: Fertilizer shortage worsens
On 7 March, farmers in Brazil are facing pressure as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in a global fertilizer shortage. Brazil is the world's largest fertilizer importer, and Russia was its top supplier at 22 percent. However, since October 2021, Russian fertilizer exports have been restricted, which has led to a rise in export prices. Brazil requires fertilizer for its cash crops of soybean and coffee.
Peru: Castillo faces new impeachment as he wins the confidence vote
On 9 March, President Pedro Castillo secured the vote of confidence from Peru's congress. His cabinet secured the vote amid a new impeachment by the opposition parties. However, lawmakers are scheduled to move a censure on Health Minister Hernan Condori. Prime Minister Anibal Torres said the administration prioritized people's fundamental rights as monopolies and oligopolies damaged the country.
Space: Solar orbiter reaches halfway to the sun
On 8 March, the solar orbiter spacecraft, which is on its journey to the sun, has reached about halfway between the two. The mission is planned to last seven years and would allow for studying space weather and the Sun-Earth connection. The spacecraft will cross the orbit of mercury by 14 march; the mission was launched on 10 February 2020 and was jointly developed by the European Space Agency and NASA.
About the authors
Avishka Ashok is a Research Associate at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Joeana Cera Matthews and Keerthana Nambiar are Postgraduate scholars from the Department of International Relations at the University of Mysore. Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan is a Research Assistant at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Angkuran Dey, and Meghna Manoj are Postgraduate scholars at the Center for South Asian Studies at Pondicherry University.
Harini Madhusudan, Rishika Yada, Sneha Surendran, Prerana P, Sreeja JS and Padmashree Anandhan
Rishika Yadav | Research Assistant, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore
Rishika Yadav and Nityashree RB | Research Assistant and Research Intern, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore
Padmashree Anandhan | Research Associate National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore
Harini Madhusudan, Rishma Banerjee, Padmashree Anandhan, Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan, and Avishka Ashok
Padmashree Anandhan and Rishma Banerjee
Emmanuel Selva Royan
Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan
Angelin Archana | Assistant Professor, Women’s Christian College, Chennai
Shreya Upadhyay | Assistant Professor, Christ (Deemed to be University), Bangalore
Uma Purushothaman | Assistant Professor, Central University of Kerala, Kerala
Debangana Chatterjee | Assistant Professor, JAIN (Deemed-to-be University), Bangalore
Himani Pant | Research Fellow, ICWA, Delhi
Emmanuel Selva Royan
Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan
Joeana Cera Matthews
Joeana Cera Matthews
Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan
Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan
Joeana Cera Matthews
Joeana Cera Matthews
Joeana Cera Matthews
Chetna Vinay Bhora
Joeana Cera Matthews
Joeana Cera Matthews
Keerthana Rajesh Nambiar
Chetna Vinay Bhora